James Lawrence is no stranger to feats of ultra-endurance. Known as the Iron Cowboy, Lawrence hails from Calgary, Canada, and holds the world record for the most IRONMAN distance triathlons completed in a calendar year – fifty. Not only did he complete those fifty IRONMAN triathlons in a single year, but he did them back-to-back! In 2015 Lawrence completed fifty IRONMAN distance triathlons, over fifty consecutive days; completing one in each of the United States of America’s fifty states. The feat earned him the nickname, Iron Cowboy.
After that the Absa Cape Epic should be easy, right? “Oh man I wish” Lawrence laughed at that suggestion. “This race is the real deal and I need to show it the utmost respect. IRONMAN racing is very different to mountain biking, they are completely different sports. But I hope to pull from my mental experience and ultimately have an amazing experience at the Absa Cape Epic.”
Reflecting on the challenge ahead Lawrence continued, “The thing that scares me the most with this race is the unknown. This is way outside my comfort zone. I am going to rely a lot on my teammate Mario [Santana] and his experience with the race. The element of newness is exciting for me. I will definitely be tested over these eight days.”
Lawrence’s partner, in the IRONCOWBOY team, is Mario Santana. A South African, Santana completed the Absa Cape Epic in 2018 and is a highly competitive age group mountain biker. While Santana’s experience in the race and in riding in South African conditions in general will be a great help Lawrence is concerned about the heat. “The weather is one of my biggest concerns at this point” he confessed. “The heat is a scary thing to navigate and I hope my body responds well. As I write this we are about three weeks out and I will start some indoor heat training to try and get my body ready for the drastic change in temperature. I live and train in the Rocky Mountains, in Utah, and while we have lots of elevation to climb, which is great for training, the temperatures also very low at the moment, which isn’t quite as ideal.”
Concluding with his feelings ahead of the Absa Cape Epic Lawrence said, “We are all nervous, I just hope that it is an excited nervousness.”
“We can’t change the weather or the hills, so focus on what you can control,” he advised fellow first timers. “The best advice I can give is to have fun! It is going to hurt but who cares. All we can do is focus on the next pedal stroke, smile, cheers on the competition and thank the volunteers. Oh and if you quit somewhere along the way you’ll regret it forever, so just keep turning those pedals over!”